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How Cold is Too Cold For Your Dog?

Score for Seniors:
Activity Level:
Weight: Pounds

chihuahua with a coat in the snow

The answer depends on your dog. We have put together this guide to help you decide on cold is too cold for your dog.

1. Which breeds handle snow and cold the best?

Not all dog breeds are built to endure freezing cold weather. Some dog breeds are capable of running through snowstorms, while other breeds prefer to stay warm indoors during the winter. Here are the most popular breeds (From the American Kennel Club’s top 100) that can thrive in cold-weather:

  • German shepherds (#3)
  • Siberian Huskies (#16)
  • Bernese Mountain Dogs (#22)
  • Newfoundlands (#41)
  • Shiba Inu (#43)
  • Akitas (#48)
  • St. Bernards (#52)
  • Samoyeds (#56)
  • Alaskan Malamutes (#65)
  • Great Pyrenees (#70)
  • Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs (#76)
  • Chow Chows (#84)
  • Norwegian Elkhounds (#91)
  • Tibetan Terriers (#99)

To learn more, please read our article on the best dog breeds for cold weather.

2. Which breeds handle cold the worst?

Breeds like greyhounds and chihuahuas were bred in warmer climates, and have short coats and little body fat. This means that they are ill-equipped for cold climates and will need more protection in wintertime. The most popular breeds that do NOT handle cold weather well are:

  • French Bulldogs (#2)
  • Dachshunds (#10)
  • Yorkshire Terriers (#13)
  • Great Danes (#15)
  • Doberman Pinschers (#18)
  • Boston Terriers (#21)
  • Pugs (#29)
  • Chihuahuas (#34)
  • Basset Hounds (#36)
  • Whippets (#59)
  • Greyhounds (#69)
  • Miniature Pinscher (#77)
  • Chinese Crested (#79)

3. What factors affect how a dog reacts to cold? (ie. body weight, size, etc.) 

Cold-weather breeds have thick, double coats, extra body fat or a robust body frame that protect them from the cold. A double coat is made out of a short-hair dense undercoat under a long-hair top coat, which provides further protection against the cold.

Some breeds have long, but single coats and may not do well in cold temperatures. For example, Yorkshire Terriers have longer hair, but their coat is a thin single coat. This means that they can still get cold quickly and they may need additional gear to keep them warm in cold weather.

Other factors that are important include leg size (Basset Hounds or Dachshunds have shorter legs, which means their bodies are closer to the freezing ground and it’s harder for them to walk through snow) and ear sizes (paws, ears, and tail arethe most common areas to be affected by frostbite – Source).

4. How cold is too cold to walk a dog?

How cold is too cold will primarily depend on your dog’s breed and coat type. Siberian Huskies can extend energy to maintain their body temperature as long as it is above 0°C (32°F) (NRC, 2006) while most short-hair dog breeds will feel more comfortable walking outside with temperatures above 15°C (59°F) (Sjaastad, 2010) – Source. If temperatures fall below these levels, you can equip your dog with winter gear to help keep them cozy and warm. It’s also important that you dog actually exercises if you’re going out in very cold temperatures. If they are standing around, they’ll quickly get chilly. If they’re walking or running, their body heat will help keep them warm.

Additionally, senior dogs or dogs with health conditions often have a harder time regulating body temperature, and are more likely to benefit from winter gear.

5. Signs a dog is too cold

If your dog exhibits any of the following signs, it may be time to get inside before hypothermia sets in:

  • Shivers (muscle spasms due to low temperature)
  • Barks or Whines
  • Shows signs of anxiety
  • Stops walking
  • Holds their paws up
  • Have very cold ears or paws

7. Tips for keeping your dog warm in the winter

Depending on your dog breed, you may need more or less cold weather gear. Short-coated breeds, like greyhounds and chihuahuas, will need more protection than breeds bred for cold weather, like the Bernese Mountain Dog or Husky.

Boots: In all breeds, boots are a good idea – heat can quickly be lost through the pads, and they can become damaged from ice and snow.


WATCH: 3 Important Tips To Care For an Old Dog [VET VIDEO]


Coats: Coats and jumpers are best only if your dog isn’t exercising much – a short, slow walk or a potter through town will need a coat, but it’s best not to apply one to a dog who is running around, as they can sweat, meaning that when the coat is removed they feel even colder!

Author

  • Dr. Winnie earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Duke University, a Masters of Science in Biology from St Georges University, and graduated from the University of Pretoria Veterinary School in South Africa. She is a full-time Veterinarian in South Africa specializing in internal medicine for large breed dogs.

Disclaimer: This website's content is not meant to be a substitute for veterinary care, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult with your veterinarian to determine the best course of action. Read More.

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